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Thanks to airport chaos, Dustin Pedroia sprints for first time since surgery

12.16.10 at 8:36 am ET
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Appearing on The Big Show Wednesday afternoon, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia explained how an airport mix-up allowed him to sprint on his surgically-repaired left foot for the first time since the operation.

Traveling back from vacation with his family, along with the family of Dodgers’ outfielder Andre Ethier, Pedroia was having a difficult time getting his entire group through customs, making it difficult to make its flight on time.

“They wanted me, who just got cleared to jog, to sprint to the gate, which is on the other side of the airport, to hold the plane up,” Pedroia said. “So I’m sprinting, testing out my foot with my shoelaces untied, holding my 30-pound son — by the way, my foot felt phenomenal — sprinting through the airport, and I get to the gate, and I’m like, ‘Ma’am, did the flight leave?’ She said, ‘I’m going to give you three minutes.’ I’m like, ‘There’s no way.’ Andre’s kid is a little bigger than [Pedroia's son] Dylan and he’s running everywhere. Two seconds later, the pilot comes off the plane and goes, ‘We’ve got a situation.’ I thought, ‘Jeez, now we’re definitely staying here.’

“She pulls off this couple. Some woman was beating the [expletive] out of her husband on the plane. They pull those two off. This guy has a bloody face. He must have smarted off or something. The flight was delayed 30 minutes, and we got to get on the flight. I almost high-fived everybody. It was awesome.”

“It was out of control. We ended up getting on. I was more pumped my foot felt good from sprinting with a 30-pound kid on me. We got on the flight. I was pumped. It was a good day.”

Asked how the foot felt after the unexpected exercise, Pedroia came away optimistic.

“I woke up and wanted to go run more, but I’ve got to kind of take it easy,” he said. “But it was fun.”

Pedroia also talked about where he might hit in the lineup now the Red Sox have added first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.

“I actually texted Tito [Francona],” he said. “I said, ‘€˜Tito, I’€™ve been with the Red Sox four years now, and this might be the first time you have to manage. You might have to think about the lineup you’€™re going to throw out there.’€™

“I don’€™t think it matters. I texted Carl a little bit. I don’€™t care where I hit. He doesn’€™t care. Neither does Ells. We want to win. The more good players we have, the better off our team is going to be.”

To listen to the interview, click here. For more Red Sox coverage, see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Another one bites the dust: Reliever Jesse Crain reportedly signs with White Sox

12.15.10 at 9:21 pm ET
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According to Peter Gammons of NESN and the MLB Network (via twitter), the White Sox have signed right-handed reliever Jesse Crain to a three-year deal. Crain was regarded by some as having the best stuff of any available right-hander on the market.

Crain had 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 2010, and 7.7 punchouts per nine over the last three years. But while he has electric stuff — a mid-90s fastball and a wipeout slider — his year-to-year results have been wildly inconsistent over the last five years. Here they are, from 2006-10: 3.52, 5.51, 3.59, 4.70, 3.04.

One talent evaluator noted that his results have not consistently matched his stuff, while another raved about what the 29-year-old is capable of.

“On a championship team, he’€™d be a great right-hand setup guy who could come in and crush you,” he said. “Someone like Crain, someone will give him three years.”

Once again, that is a length that the Sox typically do not go to for a reliever, having done so only once (for Keith Foulke) under GM Theo Epstein.

The White Sox, however, were willing to go to such lengths. Crain’s decision to stay in the AL Central could be to his benefit since, while he was dominant against most of the 17 clubs he faced last year, he had an 11.70 ERA in 10 innings against AL East opponents.

Read More: Hot Stove, jesse crain,

Red Sox bring back Lenny DiNardo

12.15.10 at 8:30 pm ET
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The Red Sox are bringing back a familiar face.

The team has agreed to terms with left-handed pitcher Lenny DiNardo on a minor-league, split contract. DiNardo confirmed the agreement by phone from Fort Myers, where he is working out. He has taken the team’s physical, with results of an MRI being the only thing remaining to finalize the deal. DiNardo said that he will be ready as either a starting depth option or as a reliever.

DiNardo, 31, spent three years with the Sox from 2004-06 after being selected from the Mets in the Rule 5 draft. He went 1-3 with a 5.53 ERA in 43 games as both a starter and reliever for Boston. He was selected off waivers by the Oakland A’s following the 2006 season, and DiNardo ended up turning in the best year of his career in 2007 under then-Oakland (and now Sox) pitching coach Curt Young. He went 8-10 with a 4.11 ERA in 35 appearances (20 starts) that year.

“[Young] really helped me focus on using my changeup more. And I attribute that whole year to that pitch basically,” said DiNardo. “Up to that point I was mainly just a fastball, cutter guy and I’€™d throw more curveballs and changeups and in 2007 what turned me around was that I would throw a changeup in any count. If I threw 100 pitches previous to 2007 I’€™d throw less than 10 changeups and in a few of the games in 2007 if I were to throw 100 pitches it was boosted up to 35 changeups.

“That’€™s Curt Young. He’€™s a left handed pitcher who had similar stuff to me and we kind of felt eye-to-eye on a lot of things. He really helped me out.”

However, he struggled to an 8.73 ERA in the majors in 2008 (with the A’s) and 2009 (with the Royals), and ended up spending much of those seasons as well as all of 2010 (back with the A’s) in the minors. He underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow in the middle of the 2010 season, but was back on the mound by Sept., and now feels fully healthy.

Now, pending the results of his MRI, DiNardo is back with a familiar team and pitching coach in the Sox and Young.

Read More: curt young, Hot Stove, lenny dinardo,

Sources: Red Sox in ‘ongoing discussions’ with reliever Dan Wheeler

12.15.10 at 4:59 pm ET
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The Red Sox have been engaged in ongoing discussions with right-hander Dan Wheeler about the possibility of coming to Boston, according to sources familiar with the talks. While no deal is done at this time, one source proclaimed optimism about the direction of negotiations.

The 33-year-old free agent, who was drafted out of Pilgrim High School in Warwick (R.I.), has been with the Tampa Bay Rays since the middle of the 2007 season, when he was acquired from the Astros in a trade for Ty Wigginton. Wheeler had a 3.35 ERA in 48 1/3 innings in 2010, and he struck out 8.6 batters per nine innings. However, his innings total was the lowest of his professional career, and he has seen his workload go down in each of the last three years. Over his last three full seasons with the Rays, he has a 3.24 ERA while striking out 7.5 batters per nine innings, while walking 2.5 batters per nine.

Wheeler has appeared in 21 postseason games for the Rays and Astros, forging a 3.38 ERA while striking out 28 and walking eight in 26 2/3 innings. He was drafted in the 34th round by the Rays in 1996, and has since spent time with the Braves, Mets and Astros organizations before returning to Tampa Bay.

The Rays declined a $4 million option for his services for the 2011 season, instead opting to pay a $1 million buyout. The Rays also declined to offer the veteran salary arbitration. He earned $3.5 million last season in the final year of a three-year, $10.5 million deal he signed with the Rays prior to the 2008 season.

Rob Bradford contributed to this report.

Read More: dan wheeler, Hot Stove,

Fine wine or vinegar: What history says about how Carl Crawford will age

12.15.10 at 12:16 pm ET
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When watching Carl Crawford, one trait jumps out above all others: Speed.

At 29, he is already one of the most prolific base stealers in major league history. His 409 career steals rank 37th of all time. After years of seeing the outfielder torture Red Sox catchers, little explanation is necessary to explain how much Crawford’€™s presence on the bases can transform a game.

The same can be said of the outfielder’€™s defense. In 2010, Crawford was finally awarded a Gold Glove for his tremendous work in left field, thus becoming the first American League left fielder in nearly 30 years to receive the honor. According to fangraphs.com, he has been ‘€“ far and away ‘€“ the best defensive player in the game for the last three years as measured by UZR, having saved 52 runs compared to an average fielder at his position.

Speed is what has helped to make Crawford a star. Speed is the trait that made him a $20 million a year player for the Red Sox.

There is little doubt that the left fielder is growing as a hitter. He had career highs in homers (19) and OPS (.851) in 2010, but if you take away Crawford’€™s legs, he’€™s fighting players like Vladimir Guerrero and Hideki Matsui for a one-year deal in the $4 million to $5 million range.

But speed is a tool that starts to decline almost from the earliest days of a player’€™s major league career. And so it is fair to wonder: What will Crawford be over the life of his seven-year deal? How do players who are phenomenal base stealers at an early age perform as the odometer turns over from their 20s into their 30s?

That is the question the Sox confronted while trying to decide how far to go in their bidding. In addition to a thorough scouting analysis of Crawford, the team also asked analyst Bill James to study what could be expected of the outfielder before signing him to the biggest contract issued by this ownership regime. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: bill james, bobby bonds, carl crawford, eddie collins

Sources: Matt Guerrier turns down Red Sox to sign with Dodgers

12.15.10 at 11:38 am ET
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As first reported by Erik Boland of Newsday (via twitter), reliever Matt Guerrier has agreed to a three-year deal with the Dodgers. One source with knowledge of the negotiations said that the deal is not done as of Wednesday morning, but that the Dodgers and the pitcher are working in that direction.

The right-hander had been offered a two-year contract with a vesting option for a third year by the Red Sox, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations, but Guerrier apparently opted to go for the longer guarantee. Boland reports that the Yankees were also among the teams pursuing the right-hander.

Guerrier was one of the most consistent and durable pitchers on the relief market this year, having posted ERAs of 3.40 or better in five of his last six seasons. He had also made 73 or more appearances in the last four seasons with the Twins. Despite a relatively low strikeout rate (5.9 per nine innings in his career, 5.3 per nine innings in 2010), he established himself as an effective middle reliever who was able to induce groundballs.

“Guerrier is consistent,” said a scout of an AL team. “He’€™s a steady sixth, seventh inning guy.”

Guerrier is the third middle reliever to receive a three-year deal this winter, joining Joaquin Benoit and Scott Downs. The Sox are unlikely to go to such lengths in pursuing bullpen help, having signed just one reliever (Keith Foulke, a closer) to a deal of that length under GM Theo Epstein.

Read More: Hot Stove, matt guerrier,

Graphic: How stolen base artists age

12.15.10 at 8:20 am ET
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In today’s column on how speedsters such as Carl Crawford age, Crawford was compared to a group of the 15 other players since 1901 to have accumulated 40 or more steals in five different seasons by age 28. It is a group that includes four Hall of Famers (Rickey Henderson, Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Max Carey) and one Hall of Fame hopeful (Tim Raines) as well as several players who performed at an All-Star level for some time. (Also included are players whose only reason for being in the big leagues was speed.)

Here is a more detailed look at the performance of those players as measured by their hitting lines, OPS+ (OPS compared to the league average, with 100 representing league average, 110 identifying a player whose OPS was 10 percent better than average, and 90 identifying a player who was 10 percent below average), games played per season and stolen bases per season. Read the rest of this entry »

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